NEW JERSEY - Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday issued an executive order that includes a broad-ranging “stay at home” edict for Garden State residents.

Nearly all of the state’s 9 million residents should stay at home. "We must flatten the curve," Murphy said. "We can no longer maintain a sense of business as usual. ...Just as it’s no time to panic, it’s time to be smart, transparent and aggressive." 

While New Jersey continues to work with New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware, all gatherings are canceled until further notice; that means no weddings, in-person services or even parties. "This decision is not an easy one and it pains me that important life moments will not be celebrated in the way we are accustomed to," Murphy said. Additionally, he urged those who have homes at the Jersey Shore to not go to them at this time. "The local infrastructure, especially the health care infrastructure and especially in off-season, is not prepared for the influx of part-time residents." 

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"Please stay at your primary residences," he added. 

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Murphy also directed all non-essential retail businesses to close their physical stores to the public, effective at 9 pm Saturday night. "Only businesses critical to our response may remain physically open to the public." Grocery stores, food banks, medical supply stores, gas stations, auto mechanics and repair services, convenience stores, banks and other financial institutions, hardware and home improvement stores, laundromats, print shops, pet stores, stores that sell supplies for children, mail and delivery shops and restaurants, liquor stores and bars providing take-out services. Work at construction sites, manufacturing, trucking and transportation can continue. All businesses must move employees to work from home when possible. Murphy’s declaration overrides any other county or local guidelines. 

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the PNC Arts Center is now ready to serve as a testing center.

"We know that flattening the curve will take the pressure off the health care system, we just don’t know exactly what the timing looks like," Murphy said. So the Department of Health is working with the Army Corp of Engineers to expand our health care facility bed capacity. While it’s "no cause for panic," it is a "sobering reminder" of what we are facing, the governor continued. 

Murphy said that as of Saturday morning, his office learned of his 432 new positive test results for COVID-19, for total of 1,327 in the Garden State; there are five new COVID-related deaths, bringing the total number of such deaths at 16.

“The increase in the positive test results is completely expected,” he said, because of community spread and “our aggressive testing posture.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo echoed this sentiment earlier Saturday with New York’s huge influx in positive tests, due to the spike in testing capabilities of late 

New Jersey has been ahead of the curve with testing, “and the numbers will continue to grow significantly. There’s just no other way around it,” Murphy said, adding that it will be “many, many thousands” who will likely test positive.

Residents can still walk or run outside and otherwise stay healthy. But, and Murphy emphasized but," everyone is ordered to continue practicing social distancing - 6 feet or more between people. "No one is immune from Coronavirus."

He added: "while the economic pain is significant now, we will save many lives....and frankly, at the end of the day, the economic pain of what we are doing will be a lot less than if we had let this virus run amok."

Meanwhile, President Trump announced a series of initiatives the federal government is taking to help localities and individuals most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. They include:

  • Congress is working to pass legislation to provide more relief to small businesses
  • Student loan payments are deferred for 60 days without penalty
  • The Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing for the current school year
  • Alcohol manufacturing facilities in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia are repurposing their operations to make hand sanitizer
  • Dramatically increased telehealth, so residents can contact doctors without leaving home “I think we’re going to change the way our country functions medically – and probably in other ways,” Trump said.

“Every American has a role to play in defending our nation from this invisible, horrible enemy.”

Other companies have changed course and are starting to produce masks and other products needed during this particular health emergency. Meanwhile, a “vaccine is moving along,” said Trump.

“Every American can do their part to slow the spread, and we encourage each of you to do that,” Added Vice President Mike Pence.